Should I have a follow-up appointment after having a tear?
Many hospitals will offer a check-up if you have had a third- or fourth-degree tear. You may also be seen by a specialist women’s health physiotherapist.
Your GP surgery should offer you a postnatal check 6 to 8 weeks after your baby’s birth to make sure you are feeling well and are recovering properly.
They may offer an examination to look at how your stitches are healing or you can ask them to check.
Your health visitor can also check how you are healing.
Don’t feel you have to wait for this appointment. Call your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any concerns about your stitches.
Will I need to go back and have the stitches taken out?
No. Your healthcare professional will use dissolvable stitches. These take about a month to dissolve completely.
How much can I move if I’ve had stitches?
Everyone is different so it’s important to listen to your body and take things slowly. If you’ve had a more severe tear, it’s best to avoid strain or pressure on the area and avoid high-impact exercise or heavy lifting for around 4-6 weeks.
It can be difficult to look after a baby when you are recovering from giving birth. Take any opportunity you can to take help from a partner, family and friends so you can concentrate on your healing.
Is it possible for the stiches to break?
It is rare for the stitches to come undone. But if there is an infection or pressure on the stitches from bleeding underneath can cause the stitches to break, leaving an open wound. This is called perineal wound dehiscence or breakdown.
Wound breakdown can cause pain, new bleeding or pus-like discharge. You may also begin to feel unwell. Sometimes women notice some stitch material coming away soon after they have had their baby, or can see for themselves that the wound has opened.
Call your midwife, health visitor or GP if you have any concerns about your stitches.
When can I have sex again?
From a physical point of view, you can start having sex again once your stitches are healed and bleeding has stopped. But it’s also important to think about whether you are emotionally ready to start having sex again.
Find out more about sex after pregnancy.
When can I exercise again?
It's usually a good idea to wait until after your 6-week postnatal check before you start any high-impact exercise, such as aerobics or running. If you had a more complicated delivery or a caesarean, your recovery time will be longer. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP before starting anything strenuous.
If you’ve had a third- or fourth-degree tear, it may help to:
- mix resting with gentle walks and activity
- try to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby for the first 6 weeks
- let someone else lift the buggy, car seat and any other children you have, where possible
- continue your pelvic floor and other gentle exercises.
Will I tear again if I have another baby?
Not necessarily. Many women go on to have a straightforward vaginal birth after a severe tear.
Some women think about having a planned caesarean section next time. You’ll be able to talk about how you feel and what your options at your follow up appointment or early in your next pregnancy.
I feel traumatised by my birth experience. How do I cope with this?
Tearing during labour, especially if you have a third- or fourth-degree tear, can be very distressing. Your partner (if you have one) may also be traumatised. Find out more about recovering after a traumatic birth.
Some women who experience any birth trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. This may lead to fear of childbirth in the next pregnancy.
PTSD can develop immediately after an event or it can happen weeks, months or even years later.
It can be very difficult to come to terms with a traumatic event, but PTSD is treatable. The important thing is to try and confront your feelings with help from healthcare professionals.
Find out more about post-traumatic stress disorder.
More support and information
The Masic Foundation supports mothers who have suffered from an injury during childbirth, known as a third- or fourth-degree tear, that results in incontinence. They also have a free helpline for anyone who wants to talk about their treatment or the treatment of loved ones. Call 0808 164 0833 24 hours a day to leave a message and a trained volunteer will get back to you.
The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) supports women who suffer birth trauma – a shorthand term for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth.
The Birth Tear Support Facebook group is a support group for women who have suffered from severe tearing or episiotomies